Political Behavior

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 127–147 | Cite as

Snap Judgment: Implicit Perceptions of a (Political) Court

  • Thomas G. HansfordEmail author
  • Chanita Intawan
  • Stephen P. Nicholson
Original Paper


Do people fundamentally perceive the Supreme Court as a political institution? Despite the central importance of this question to theories of public evaluations of the Court and its decisions, it remains largely unanswered. To this end, we develop a new, implicit measure of political perceptions of the Court. This new measure relies on a categorization task wherein respondents quickly associate political or non-political attributes with the Supreme Court relative to institutions that are high or low in politicization. We find that the public implicitly perceives the Court as less political than Congress (high politicization) and more political than traffic court (low politicization) and that this measure is distinct from self-reported (explicit) perceptions of politicization. Finally, we find that implicit perceptions have a distinct effect on predicting diffuse support for the court and specific support for one of two Court decisions.


Supreme Court Public opinion Implicit attitudes Diffuse support Specific support 



We are grateful for the helpful comments provided by Kevin McGuire, Alex Theodoridis, and the participants in the Faculty Colloquium in Public Law at Princeton University.

Supplementary material

11109_2017_9398_MOESM1_ESM.docx (31 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 31 kb)
11109_2017_9398_MOESM2_ESM.docx (17 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UC MercedMercedUSA

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